Steve Herman – VOA News
WHITE HOUSE - Venezuela's self-declared president Juan Guaido is calling for another day of massive street protests Wednesday to try and convince Nicolas Maduro that he must go.
Guaido said late Tuesday night that Maduro’s claim that he still has the respect and support of the Venezuelan military is false.
He says protests against Maduro has the world's attention and that the people have to keep up the pressure on the regime.
Maduro appeared on Venezuelan television to say the opposition is trying to impose an "illegitimate government" backed by the United States and Colombia. He said Venezuela has been the victim of all kinds of aggression.
President Donald Trump Tuesday threatened Cuba with “full and complete embargo” of the island and the “highest-level sanctions” if it does not immediately cease military and other support for Venezuela.
Minutes after Trump’s tweet, his secretary of state asserted that Maduro had been prepared to depart Venezuela on Tuesday morning but was talked out of it by the Russians.
“He was headed for Havana,” Mike Pompeo said on CNN.
Asked to say something directly to Maduro, Pompeo replied: “Fire up the plane.”
Of the Cubans, Pompeo said “it is unacceptable that they are protecting this thug.”
Earlier in the day, National Security Adviser John Bolton acknowledged “a very serious situation” in the South American country and said Trump was monitoring it “minute by minute.”
The Trump administration blames Cuban and Russian support for maintaining Maduro in power. He succeeded, in 2013, the late Hugo Chavez, who had come to power in 1998 by winning an election following his unsuccessful coup attempt.
“We expect the Russians not to interfere in Venezuela,” Bolton told reporters outside the White House West Wing on Tuesday.
Bolton, further indicating the uncertainty of success for Guaido, who is backed by the United States and dozens of other countries, called for Venezuela’s defense minister, its supreme court chief judge and the commander of the presidential guard “to act this afternoon or evening” and support the action to remove Maduro from power.
At a State Department briefing, the agency’s special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said it appears the three top-level Maduro officials are not going forward with what they had promised during internal Venezuelan negotiations.
“If this effort fails, they will sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives,” predicted Bolton.
In response to a VOA question about what happens next if Guaido is not able to prevail on Tuesday, Bolton replied it is possible the current situation could persist.
“We don't see any indication that there's any substantial part of the military that's ready to fire on innocent civilians, their fellow countrymen,” added Bolton.
The national security adviser downplayed a televised scene of a military vehicle running over demonstrators who had been pelting the armored personnel carrier with stones.
“It could be an isolated incident,” he said.
Bolton declined to say what kind of support the United States is currently providing on the ground besides humanitarian assistance.
As he and the president have emphasized repeatedly for months, Bolton said all options remain on the table when asked about the possibility of U.S. military intervention.
“I’m simply not going to be more specific to that,” he added.
What is happening in Venezuela is confusing and the U.S. government is receiving conflicting information, according Abrams.
Administration officials say Guaido’s attempt to take power should not be regarded as a coup attempt because the national assembly leader is already recognized as the head of state by Western governments.
Besides Cuba and Russia, countries such as China and Turkey continue to regard Maduro as Venezuela’s president.